Monday, 1 November 2010

Beauty Woes: Cold Sores

Cold sores are officially evil - and unfortunately I've suffered from them for as long as I can remember. They were particularly bad in my teens - when your appearance starts to matter most and as well as the visual implications, cold sores do actually make you feel far worse than a small scab on your lip should. You know the advert where the women wears a motorcycle helmet in the swimming pool!? That's no understatement for how you feel when a cold sore strikes! They alternate between being itchy and painful, you can't kiss your other half & at a time when you'd love to hide under a blanket of make up, their infectious nature makes cleaning your face/applying cosmetics a tricky and time-consuming process.

Pic by Getty Images
There is of course no cure for cold sores but over the years I've come up with my own tips for dealing with them which I thought I'd share. This combination seems to work for me and whilst I can't guarantee it would for everyone, there is no harm in trying!

1) Know your triggers and counteract them
Cold sores can be caused by illnesses such as colds and flu, fatigue, menstrual periods or emotional upset. My personal triggers are sunlight, damage to my skin such as chapped lips and change-related stress (new relationships, jobs, house moves etc). The first two are easily dealt by keeping a lipbalm to hand and ensuring it has SPF in for the summer months/holidays in the sun. As for stress - well that's not so easy - but I have come across a couple of treatments that seem to work quite well.
2) Diet can play a big part
Research has shown that an amino acid called Lysine inhibits the growth and reproduction of the herpes virus - you can increase your Lysine intake by eating foods including red meat, pork, poultry, dairy products and cheese, nuts, eggs, soya beans and other  legumes. Alternatively  you can pick up a Lysine supplement from most health food shops - I've been taking a daily 1000mg dose for about 8 years now which I up to 2000 or 3000mg during a breakout*

3) Aciclovir can help...but try Zinc too
There are of course tons of over-the-counter remedies containing the anti-viral ingredient aciclovir which work incredibly well on the first sign of a cold sore - what they describe as the tell-tale 'tingle'. Unfortunately my cold sores almost always came up overnight so I never felt the tingle and therefore was always too late to take advantage of these treatment remedies. A lot of websites however talk about using zinc to prevent cold sores and I work this into my skincare routine using a topical zinc-based product (Cicalfate Restorative Skin Cream by Avene) on my lips overnight. I haven't had an overnight cold sore since starting using this almost 3 years ago which means that when the do pop up I can blast them with Zovirax!

4) Try a bit of mind over matter
As with most complexion related ailments, cold sores feel like they must be more visible to other people than they actually are. The chances are that the person you're sat across from hasn't even noticed it and if they have, they probably feel sympathetic more than anything else. And whilst you may think that no-one else seems to get them you're definitely not alone - approximately 1 in 5 people on the UK suffer from cold sores and even picture perfect celebrities are not exempt as these piccies show....

*According to guidelines from the Nutritional Supplement Educational Centre there have been no known side effects of Lysine when taken at recommended dosages. Pregnant and nursing women, individuals with sever liver or kidney conditions, cardiovascular disease, elevated cholesterol and/or triglyceride levels should consult a physician before taking lysine supplements. Anyone who has an existing medical condition, including those on prescription medications should consult with their physician before beginning any type of dietary supplementation.